A boulder stops me in my tracks. There is a dry creek bed below, a huge boulder ahead, but no trail to be seen. I put my bike down and try to think logically. First I inch my way around the boulder to see whether the trail will somehow materialize. It doesn’t. I then walk as far to the left of the boulder (west) as I can, hoping I will find a way around. Nothing. I backtrack a ways to see if I missed a crucial turn. I didn’t.
The rock is an impenetrable vertical bridge. I’m suddenly repeating ‘YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS!’ over and over in my head. Am I Gandalf or the Balrog in this situation? Or Frodo? Or an orc? Hard to say.
And there in my periphery goes that damned black animal again, wildly running away into the sandy night just past my vision. It’s roughly the shape of a boar but it runs like a gorilla. I’ve seen it a half-dozen times at this point, though, so nothing to be concerned about. It’s harmless.
It’s mile 335 of the Stagecoach 400, I’ve gone over 36 hours without sleep, and I’ve been stuck at the transition to The Willows for over 30 minutes.